Jule OwenJule Owen is the Chief Product and Technology Officer at Feefo.

Formerly at Unruly, Microsoft, and Rothschild, Jule has over twenty years’ experience leading technology teams and building digital products.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m currently Chief Product and Technology Officer at Feefo, the world’s largest verified reviews platform. I look after the product management, design, data, implementation, IT, and technical delivery (engineering) teams. I’ve been at Feefo six months now and it’s been a really exciting time to join the company. At the end of August, we merged with Reevoo, a consumer reviews and feedback business. Since then we’ve been rapidly growing our team, making significant investments in our platform, and bringing together the strengths and expertise of the two companies, doubling down on data, insights and our CX. Our products are more relevant than ever as 97% of people read reviews before making a purchase and we’re on a mission to empower our customers to make the most of their feedback, with powerful data-driven insights.

Prior to Feefo, I was Chief Product Officer at Unruly, a video adtech company, and before that I lead teams at Microsoft where I headed up the development of Internet Explorer in the UK and got the chance to work on products including Xbox, Windows, Bing and Windows Live.

I started my career at Rothschild, the investment bank, which gave me a very strong grounding in business and finance and over the last couple of years I have loved the transition to working on some of the UK’s most exciting tech products.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Over the years, from time to time, I have sat down to reflect on where I’ve come from, what I’ve achieved and what I enjoy doing. I’ve even tried to map out plans, but they have never worked out exactly as I imagined. My career progression has been a stop-start affair and I think one of the key things I’ve learnt is to say yes to a role or a new challenge, even if it frightens you. It’s also important to adopt an always learning mindset and focus on upskilling and educating yourself. This has helped me step into new spaces and overcome fears.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

There have been points when I have felt frustrated and blocked in my career, yes, when I felt like I wasn’t being given opportunities to learn and progress.

I had to learn to accept that it is not the job of my boss to create development opportunities for me and to take responsibility for my own development and learning.

When I stopped waiting to be praised for things I had done, but just got on with my work, the opportunities seemed to open.

Someone I worked with at Microsoft said to me that in your career, sometimes you get praised or blamed for things you have done, sometimes for things other people have done, sometimes other people get praised or blamed for the things you have done. In a long career, this happens to everyone. This really stuck with me.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I won a Circle of Excellence Award at Microsoft and was on their leadership programme – this is one of my proudest moments, in terms of formal recognition. But in fact, I think my greatest achievement is progressing my career in technology. 20 years ago, people were less enlightened and there were more barriers facing women and members of the LGBTQ+ community in tech and gradually we’ve seen these broken down. Advancing my career to the point I’m at now is something I’m extremely proud of.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I have quite an eclectic background and skillset, which includes technology, business, investment, and finance, and creative skills, writing and the visual arts. I draw in my spare time and have also published 5 science fiction novels! I’m a lifelong learner and I think being intellectually curious is key to succeed, you need to be driven to learn new things and have a genuine passion for it – I’m genuinely excited by technology and read science magazines for fun.

My parents ran their own business, – a small building firm – so I grew up with business all around me, and the practicalities of cash flow, balancing the books, and estimating work. My day job therefore feels like a natural expression of my collective experience.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

If you are in a technical role and work for a business, you must understand the commercial drivers of that business. It is important, of course, to improve your technical skills but the technology is only valuable if it solves the right problem for the customer, the stakeholders, and the business. If you get the commercial aspects of digital businesses, as a technologist you are likely to be more successful in your career.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

The statistics speak for themselves, only 3% of females say a career in technology is their first choice. This is a huge problem as we’re shutting out some extremely smart people from an industry with an overwhelming skills shortage.

I believe the barriers are due to a cultural issue within workplaces, as we know women do well in STEM subjects to a university level.  Workplaces in tech need to be designed as inviting places for women to work, it’s only natural that if you’re one of two women that work at your company, you’re bound to feel slightly alienated.

Over the last few years I think there’s been a realisation that is not just a ‘woman’s problem’ but it’s an issue everyone must help solve. This is a starting point to make a key difference. With everyone on board at every level, regardless of gender, we can make a collective difference.

The pandemic has changed the recruitment landscape. More people are working from home. There is more competition for tech talent. There are more roles opening up. It will be interesting to see how this pans out for women in tech.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Having a CEO who champions women and a diverse leadership team is crucial. The culture of an organisation is generated by its leaders and the way in which senior management behaves has a ripple down effect throughout the company. In fact, research from Gallup shows that 70% of workplace culture is influenced by leadership, which is why it’s key for leaders to care about gender diversity. This will help to create a company culture that doesn’t tolerate discrimination. Then you need a strong People Team supporting management to put in place a diverse recruitment and development strategy.

There are currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I’d love that magic wand. There are an increasingly large number of initiatives to get women into tech in big companies and self-organising independent groups. To me it feels like there needs to be more high-profile cross-industry initiatives to build centres of learning and excellence that allow women to form strong support networks where recruiters can go to find new talent and where companies can support women through mentoring and internship and entry level job opportunities. We need to get more women onto STEM courses at University and make sure they don’t drop out at the end as well as providing support for people who might consider a mid-career shift into tech.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I would definitely recommend the following sites. Girls who code, diversity in tech and lesbians who tech.